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Dan Lessmann

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Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)


In September 2012 two Russian astronomers, Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok discovered what may be the comet of the century.  The comet was named after the International Scientific Optical Network (of which they are a part).  This comet has nearly a parabolic orbital path suggesting that it may be a new comet fresh from the Oort cloud.  Such comets on their first trip in toward the sun are often quite spectacular. 


Although comets are notoriously fickle, some estimates suggest that this comet may be bright enough to see in daylight and could sport a magnificent tail at night with a coma perhaps as bright as the full moon.  If that's not enough, the Earth is expected to pass through the orbit of the comet on January 14-15, 2014 which may result in a new meteor shower.


The comet reaches perihelion (closest approach to the sun) on November 28th and hopefully will put on a great show from October through January of 2014.  Wikipedia has a great article on ISON here.


This page will document my attempts to image the comet as it approaches and departs our neighborhood of the solar system.  In the beginning of April, 2013, ISON was bright enough to be in reach of my equipment with a reasonably short exposure necessary for a moving object such as a comet.


Distances in this page are in astronomical units (au).  One au is the average distance from the earth to the sun or approximately 93 million miles.


April 6, 2013


ISON is in Gemini and approximately 4.08 au distant from us and 5.03 au from the sun.  That puts it just inside the orbit of Jupiter and it's already sporting a tail.  I estimate its brightness as of this date to be about magnitude 14.5.  This night was hazy and eventually cloudy limiting the number of exposures to only 8.  This is a compilation of those 8, 10 minute frames through my C14 @ f/10 using my SBIG STL-6303. 



This is an animation of the 8 frames showing the relative motion of the comet during the 80 minutes of exposure.



More to come!  Check back as ISON approaches.


Last Updated: 11/12/2014  -  Copyright 2004-2013 by Dan Lessmann.  All rights reserved.  Please click here for my usage policy.